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Suncammer jams at Detroit Autorama

Mon, 28 Feb 2011

Let's say it's the hands. The difference between the North American International Auto Show in January at Detroit's Cobo Center, and Autorama in February at Cobo, is the hands.

The auto show has well-manicured hands, soft hands, hands attached to high-powered executives and numerous public-relations people. The hands of Autorama attendees are cracked and dry, with grease under their fingernails, and those hands know the feel of a cold steel ratchet.

The hands of the workers from Steve Cook Creations in Oklahoma City, Okla., aren't soft. They spent more than six years building the Ridler Award-winning 1956 Ford Convertible dubbed the Suncammer, owned by Bruce and Judy Ricks of Sapulpa, Okla.

The Ridler Award is the top honor at the Detroit Autorama, and is regarded as the top hot-rod award in the United States. It's given to the best car--regardless of class--as long as Autorama is the first time the car has been shown to the public.

The Suncammer gets its name from the '56 Ford Fairlane Sunliner donor car and the Ford 427 SOHC engine, known as the Cammer.

Sitting atop the Cammer engine, which was dyno tested at more than 600 hp, are two Ford Autolite four-barrel carburetors and attached is a Tremec TKO-500 transmission and a Tiger Quickchange rear axle.

“It was built to drive,” Bruce Ricks said after winning the award. “That's why we put the big, bad motor in it.”

The soft-top convertible Suncammer is the Ricks' fourth entry into the Detroit Autorama and their first year in the Great 8--the top eight cars at the show as chosen by the judges. The Ridler winner is selected from the Great 8.

When Bruce Ricks found the car, it was in bad shape. “The floors were nearly gone, the chassis was awful,” he said. “But we didn't care. We were looking for a car to build.”

Ricks' team slept in two and three hour shifts in the weeks prior to the show. They sectioned and channeled the body, pancaked the hood, slumped and repeaked the fenders, leaned the A-pillar and donated the elbow grease.

The Ricks's car beat a tough field this year. Some of the other Great 8 finalists included Bruce and Toni Milyard's champagne-colored 1962 Corvette, Jim Marciniak's 1963 Buick Riviera and Kenneth Tallent's 1940 Ford called Copperhead.

All of the finalists paid their share of sweat equity to compete for the 59th Ridler Award. They paid in busted knuckles and dirty fingernails. And they did it without millions of manufacturer dollars, though you wouldn't know it to look at the cars. It's the hands that tell the story.

By Jake Lingeman